Milk Production in India

by Hu Team on June 27, 2014

Dr. C.S.Thomas, MSc, Ph.D Animal Sc –  SLU , Sweden.

Historically the Indian sub-continent was where the Bos Indicus was first domesticated.  Since then these animals have developed into about 37 pure cattle breeds. Breeds were mainly selected for their ability to plough the fields and since most of India is vegetarian; milk was the only source of animal protein and fat in their diets . This led to the natural selection of about five distinct breeds  that were excellent milk producers; Sahiwal, Gir, Red Sindhi, Tharparkar and Rathi.  While others evolved as dual purpose breeds  such as Kankrej, Ongole and Hariana, and the rest being draught resistant breeds.

These Bos Indicus breeds have evolved in conditions that are harsh with high temperatures, humidity and high disease pressure along with very low nutritional levels. Thus these animals have a robust immune system, they have high levels of tolerance to heat stress, strong feet and legs, and are able to subsist of a high fiber diet compared to other lactating bovines. In the last fifty years due to the increasing demand for milk there have been cross breeding programs implemented with the intention of increasing milk production by the introduction of Holstein and Jersey blood lines.

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Today India is the world’s largest milk producer, but the average production of Indian animals is low in comparison to the European countries and the US owing to the genetic makeup of these animals. Apart from this; the Indian milk production is a medium to low input system.  These systems are also described as backyard type or small holder microenterprises. However the livestock sector plays an important role in the welfare of India’s rural population and it is a well-established sector that is important to leverage the growth of the Indian economy.

There is a large population of landless, marginal and small farmers who are small holder dairy farmers and these form the bulk of the producers.  As a large proportion of the small holder farmers are from the backward communities it is a challenge to get there participation in the main stream organized milk production sector by getting them fully integrated in the main stream of dairy business.

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There is an overpowering significant role of women in handling most of the dairying activities like fetching fodder, crop residue, feeding, watering, manure handling, milking, calf and heifer rearing and milk delivery. However; the participation of women in decision making in minimal. Eg. (Selling of milk, buying of livestock, vaccination, training, exposure, etc).
Fodder crop production is another area of concern as currently it has minimal space in the cropping programs and usually only larger farmers in irrigated areas produce fodder crops. The bulk feeding is in the form of crop residues and biomass from grazing.

Almost all animals (95%) are tethered and housed in back yard while being stall fed and supplied approximately 30 to 50 liters of water in buckets twice a day. Most animals are fed cereal bran and oilseed cakes however there is little knowledge about balanced rations etc.   AI is accepted as a vehicle for breed improvement and most producers access services like feed input, AI, and treatment for sick animals  from dairy cooperatives and free vaccination form government departments.

Operation flood (OF) one of the world’s largest rural development programs; was launched in the 1970’s and  the foundational doctrine of the OF programs have been village level producer cooperatives that procure milk and provide inputs and  services making modern management and technology available to the milk producers. The OF objectives included increase milk production, augment rural incomes and providing reasonable prices for customers.  As a result  of the OF I (1970-80), OF –II ( 1981-85) and OF-III (1986-96) the total milk production increased from  1/10th of the world production fifteen years ago to the current production where it  now accounts for 1/ 6th of total global milk output.

A combination of factors in addition to OF that also influenced the dramatic increase in milk production are;  assured procurement prices for producers, technological progress, and the increased availability crop residue (a byproduct of the green revolution). However with the growing demand for milk and milk products the  Indian Dairy Industry needs to step up production from the current 121.8 million tones (2010 -11) to 220 million tons by 2021-22 by maintaining an annual growth rate of 4% for the next fifteen years.

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